Who is to blame if search warrants are not properly served?
MANILA, Philippines–It is the law enforcers that implement the search warrants, an act that is different from what the courts do, the Office of the Court Administrator said in a memorandum to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta issued days after nine activists were killed in a simultaneous implementation of search warrants last March 7.
“The issuance of the search warrants by the judges and their service or implementation by the law enforcers are two different acts,” read the memorandum signed by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez dated March 12, 2021.
“The issuance of search warrants is judicial in nature. As such, judicial remedies are available to those aggrieved by their issuance,” the memorandum further stated.
It added that “any action at this time on their issuance may preempt any judicial recourse any party may take.”
Last March 7, nine activists were killed during the simultaneous implementation of search warrants by the police and military. Authorities claimed that those killed fought back (nanlaban).
Based on the memorandum, law enforcers applied before the Manila Regional Trial Court 63 the search warrants on March 1. Due to the number of search warrants, it was divided equally into four judges.
Of the 63, 42 search warrants have been approved.
The 42 search warrants obtained in Manila, plus four from Antipolo, were served simultaneously six days from its application or on March 7 that resulted in the death of nine activists and the arrest of six others.
Atty. Josa Deila of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said they have observed that one judge can issue several search warrants in a day, “raising questions of how thoroughly the judge examined the police’s application and how carefully he or she scrutinized the affidavits of informants.”
During the Judicial and Bar Council interview of aspiring Chief Justices, Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo said “The Constitution says no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall be issued except upon probable cause determined by a judge after conducting a searching inquiry. He cannot solely rely on the affidavits of the complainants and the witnesses they produced because that is a violation of the Constitution as well as the Rules on Criminal Procedure.”
Another chief justice aspirant, Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando, during the JBC interview, said “the judge should not be blamed for that [outcome of the search warrant implementation] its a different thing when it comes to the implementation of the search warrant.”
A Supreme Court Administrative Circular allows judges in Manila and Quezon City’s regional trial courts to issue search warrants that could be served on areas outside its territorial jurisdiction.
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